Passengers board buses at Ronstadt Transit Center, 215 E. Congress Street in Tucson, AZ. Photo taken Thursday, October 10, 2013. 

Riding for free on a Sun Tran bus will end for good on Monday.

The transit service announced earlier this week that it plans on ending a practice of allowing some people to ride for free if they were having problems with their SunGo card.

Problems with defective magnetic-strip cards, malfunctioning card readers on some buses and issues with the computerized recording of account balances and expiration dates led to the informal policy of drivers taking the rider’s word that they had a valid card.

Kate Riley, the general manager for Sun Tran and Sun Van, said they have worked closely with their SunGo contractor, SPX Genfare, to address all known problems with the new card system.

The mass-transit system — which provided nearly 20 million rides in the 2012 fiscal year — has been beset by problems, starting in July, as it phased out the paper slips it had been using for the last 15 years in favor of plastic cards equipped with identification chips.

Riders, who are being advised to keep at least some cash on hand, have had plenty of time to fix any problem they might have had with their SunGo cards, she said.

“We’ve given passengers time to resolve problems or replace their card if needed to ensure they have a functioning card when boarding Oct. 14,” Riley said.

Jim Thomas, who sits on the board of the Tucson Bus Riders Union, says he believes the problems with the SunGo card have been resolved.

He doesn’t believe the end of grace period will affect many bus riders.

Some riders are still leery of putting any money on their SunGo card.

Jessica Sanchez said she had some problems when the service was launched earlier in the summer, but she found an easy solution to those headaches.

Holding her SunGo identification and quarters for her ride home, Sanchez says she prefers to carry exact change with her for her daily commute.

Anyone who is experiencing problems with the SunGo Card is asked to call the Sun Tran customer service center at 792-9222.

Sun Tran has also released a revised financial report for the first two months of its fiscal year.

A report released in August overstated the actual figures, Sun Tran officials conceded at the time.

The new report suggests ridership was largely flat for July and August when compared to the same months last year.

Revenue, however, was up by 7 percent, the revised report says.

Sun Tran officials said the increase in revenue could be linked to riders prepaying their fares as part of the new SunGo card.

Expenses for the transit line were 3 percent below the budgeted amounts for the months of July and August, the financial report found.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson.